Following on from my previous post, the recommended course of action is:
1. Remind the employee that he must refrain from all involvement in politics in countries where he has no civil rights and the company is operating.
2. Reiterate that respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, is a fundamental company commitment.
3. Draw the employee’s attention to the fact that he may be perceived from outside as a company spokesman.
Ultimately, the company has signed up to international labour codes which respect freedom of expression. This is why they can’t just rush in and sack someone who has published something which the middle management don’t like or find inconvenient, e.g. a blog post which doesn’t mention the company name. As I said, it’s a large multinational with a reputation to protect and plenty of people wanting to see it come to grief in a courtroom. If you were some two-bit outfit nobody’s ever heard of then you’ve probably got more room to manoeuvre, but giant corporations have to watch their step.
In my earlier post, I quoted this part of the company code of conduct:
By virtue of international Human Rights standards (notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The right to freedom of opinion guarantees that no one should be harassed due to their opinions. All individuals also have the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate any kind of information, provided that the privacy and reputation of third parties and the company are respected.
This is important, as it means it’s not a question of management deciding on some vague measure that an employee has brought the company into disrepute and therefore must be disciplined. Instead, the employee can claim he acted within the company code of conduct and it’s up to the employer to demonstrate that he did so in a way so egregious that his rights are forgone in this instance. That’s not something I’d want to convince a tribunal of in the case of an employee’s Twitter comment which incited a mob to bombard the HR department with demands he be sacked.
This is really the basis of Israel Folau’s lawsuit against his former employers. If the code of conduct specifically allows people to practice their religion, how can he then be fired for effectively doing just that? I expect over the course of the next few years we’ll see a series of court cases which determine the degree to which corporations can sanction employees for expressing opinions in a private capacity which the management find inconvenient. Note that this wasn’t really a problem until Twitter came along and allowed SJW mobs to form. My guess is we’ll see a few silly rulings by progressive judges before higher courts containing more sensible judges point to commitments to human rights and freedom of expression in corporations’ documents and tell them they’d better start living up to them. The James Damore lawsuit will be worth watching.